Shoah Never Again : The Jewish Holocaust Experience and Selected Poems
A very large number of curators, guides, and directors in European Jewish museums, in my experience, are not Jewish. This is due in part to the general lack of Jews, and to the very large number of museums—Europe is a vast archipelago of Jewish museums. And yet somehow I made the assumption that Hinterleitner was Jewish. Hinterleitner said that the museum addresses anti-Semitism in the context of larger societal ills, but also that it recently issued a strong press statement condemning anti-Semitic acts in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
He said the museum has made an intensive study of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, and has learned that most verbal expressions of anti-Semitism in secondary schools come from boys and are related to soccer. Our work is about tolerance and understanding. When I left, two policemen were patrolling the narrow street outside the museum. A temporary surveillance post had been erected just across from the entrance. I asked one of the officers whether this level of security was normal. He said the government had increased security around the museum last spring, shortly after a massacre at another Jewish site: On May 24, four people were murdered at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, in Brussels, allegedly by a French Muslim of jihadist bent named Mehdi Nemmouche.
Two Israeli tourists, a French volunteer, and a Belgian employee of Muslim and Jewish descent were killed. We have never had an attack, he said.
I C A N N O T F O R G E T
Not on his watch. But it is fair to count the August 4, , Gestapo raid on the house, which resulted in the arrest of the Frank family, as an anti-Semitic act. Anne died of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, roughly one month before it was liberated by British forces. Anne Frank has become an obsession of modern anti-Semites. Her story—universally known, and deeply affecting—is a threat to the mission of the Holocaust-denial movement, and her youth and innocence challenge those who argue that Jews are innately perfidious. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, the radical Shia group, has fought to keep her diary out of schools.
The police outside the Anne Frank House are not protecting it because it is an international symbol of tolerance and understanding. There are many international symbols of understanding scattered across Europe that are not first-tier targets of jihadist extremists. The police are guarding the Anne Frank House because it is, in fact, associated with Jews, and Jews are under sustained attack in Europe. Things have gone terribly wrong for the Jews of Europe lately, but comparing to , the year Hitler came to power, is irresponsible.
As serious as matters have become for European Jews today, conditions are different from 80 years ago, in at least two profound ways. The first is that Israel exists, and has as its reason for being the ingathering of dispersed Jews. A tragedy of Zionism, the political movement to create a state for the Jews in their ancestral homeland, is that it succeeded too late. If Israel had come into being in , rather than in , an untold but presumably very large number of European Jews who were denied refuge by the civilized nations, including the United States, would have been saved from slaughter.
Anyone who damages a Jewish gravestone is disgracing our culture. Anyone who attacks a synagogue is attacking the foundations of our free society. He argues that the French idea itself depends on the crushing of anti-Semitism. It is a founding principle. But if , Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure. Valls is deliberate and—unusual for a French politician of the left—blunt in identifying the main culprits in the proliferation of anti-Jewish violence and harassment: Islamist ideologues whose anti-Semitic and anti-Western calumnies have penetrated the banlieues.
But this is not what we are talking about in France. This is radical criticism of the very existence of Israel, which is anti-Semitic. There is an incontestable link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Behind anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Frequently, Valls said, anti-Zionists let the mask slip. Valls and Merkel think more clearly about the implications of Jewish persecution than many others in Europe.
So too does David Cameron, the prime minister of the United Kingdom. According to the Community Security Trust, saw the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom, which is home to , Jews, since the organization began its monitoring efforts, in it recorded 1, anti-Semitic incidents.
This is more than double the number of incidents in , and exceeds the previous record, from , of incidents. In a recent survey conducted on behalf of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a quarter of British Jews said they had considered leaving the country; more than half of those surveyed said they fear that Jews have no future in Great Britain. I asked him whether there existed in his mind a bright line that separates anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism.
We have to be very clear about the fact that there is a dangerous line that people keep crossing over.
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The people who are trying to make the line fuzzy are the delegitimizers. The fight against anti-Semitism led by Merkel, Valls, and Cameron appears to be heartfelt. The question is, will it work? The governments of Europe are having a terrible time in their struggle against the manifestations of radical Islamist ideology.
And the general publics of these countries do not seem nearly as engaged in the issue as their leaders. The Berlin rally last fall against anti-Semitism that featured Angela Merkel drew a paltry 5, people, most of whom were Jews. It is not But could it be ? French troops in combat gear patrolled the street. But another man, who asked to be called Marcel, responded that it would be cowardly to flee for Israel at the first appearance of Molotov cocktails.
Marcel laughed. I would count on the National Front before I count on the Socialists. It is disquieting, but no longer unusual, to hear Jews of North African descent express affinity for the National Front. Le Pen, who inherited the National Front from her father, Jean-Marie, has worked diligently to bring her party closer to the French mainstream: no more thugs in leather jackets; no more public expressions of longing for Vichy; certainly no more Holocaust obsessiveness.
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Marine Le Pen is positioning herself as something of a philo-Semite. She is not under the illusion that she will sway large numbers of Jews to her side; in any case, the Jewish vote in France is minuscule. But people who follow her rise say she understands that one pathway to mainstream acceptance runs through the Jews: if she could neutralize the perception that the National Front is a fascist party by winning some measure of Jewish acceptance, she could help smooth her way to the presidency.
I told her I was shocked to find Jews in the banlieues who would look to the National Front for political salvation. She professed not to be shocked at all. And by a form of submission to the politically correct.
And while they were doing this, while they were fighting against an enemy that no longer existed, an anti-Semitism was gaining force in France stemming notably from the development of fundamentalist Islamist thought. The meaning of the proliferation of the veil in France is not to be placed on the same plane as the wearing of the kippah.
We know very well that the proliferation of the wearing of the veil—and in certain neighborhoods, the burka—is a political act.
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Her message is clear, though for obvious reasons it has been skeptically received: her father may have been an enemy of the Jewish community, but she is a friend. Naval Observatory. Biden was characteristically prolix. He talked about the Shoah, and about the many contributions Jews have made to American life, and he mentioned, as he invariably does in such settings, his first encounter with a legendary Israeli prime minister. We Jews have a secret weapon.
The vice president, it seemed to me, was trafficking in antiquated notions about Jewish anxiety. Several years in Israel, and some sober thinking about the American Jewish condition, cured me of that particular belief.
A large majority of American Jews feels affection for Israel, and is concerned for its safety, and understands the role it plays as a home of last resort for endangered brethren around the world. But very few American Jews, in my experience, believe they will ever need to make use of the Israeli lifeboat.
The American Jewish community faces enormous challenges, but these mainly have to do with assimilation, and with maintaining cultural identity and religious commitment. To be sure, anti-Semitism exists in the United States—and in my experience, some European Jewish leaders are quite ready to furnish examples to anyone suggesting that European Jews might be better off in America.
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According to the latest FBI statistics, from , Jews are by far the most-frequent victims of religiously motivated hate crimes in America. But this is still anti-Semitism on the margins. A recent Pew poll found that Jews are also the most warmly regarded religious group in America. For millennia, Jews have been asking this question: Where, exactly, is it safe?
Maimonides, the 12th-century philosopher, wrestled with this question continually, asking himself whether it was better for Jews to live in the lands of Esau—Christendom—or in the lands of Ishmael. Israel has the largest Jewish population, slightly more than 6 million. The U. Europe, including Russia, has a Jewish population of roughly 1.
There are about 1 million Jews scattered across the rest of the world, including significant communities in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, and Canada. It is not uncommon to hear European Jews argue today that their departure from the Continent would grant Hitler a posthumous victory. The desire of so many Jews in Europe to remain in Europe, and remain European, is admirable.